Retro-View: QT III Fest – Westerns

7edeAfter Good Ol’ Boys night, a subtle transition back into the past with two disparate westerns, NAVAJO JOE from 1966 starring Burt Reynolds, and THE STALKING MOON from 1968 with Gregory Peck. Quentin was very excited about showing NAVAJO JOE, claiming that he thought Reynolds gives one of the greatest “physical performances ever, alright?” Apparently, at the height of the Man With No Name fame, Reynolds was duped into an Italian western thinking Sergio Leone would be the director. He got Sergio Corbucci instead, who was one of the best non-Leone spaghetti western filmmakers with the huge hit DJANGO under belt.

Basically, NAVAJO JOE is a revenge tale about a wronged Indian (Reynolds) going single-mindedly after the men who killed his tribe. Or something. I swear I don’t recall. But Tarantino was right about Burt Reynolds (or “Stuntman Burt” if you recall the taunt from GRINDHOUSE) as he deftly jumps, swoops, chops, punches and shoots all over the place, fully utilizing his stunt background. It’s as if he’s trying to escape from the film; there’s always somebody in his warpath. The second great thang was the obligatory Ennio Morricone soundtrack, with one of his most audacious themes (also used all over KILL BILL). ELECTION even sampled from the music (which you’d recognize as Tracy Flick’s anger theme). While not a masterpiece, NAVAJO JOE is a well-shot and exciting spaghetti western that has some real mythical Techniscope moments. Burt Reynolds barely says five sentences in the whole film, but his kinetic presence justifies all.

Between films, I talked with Quentin about THE MIGHTY PEKING MAN and he went into a whole monologue about what the story means and particularly the last shot. Now, I thought I was a film geek, but Tarantino is The Film Geek. He was actually inside THE MIGHTY PEKING MAN’S HEAD, looking out. With that one conversation, I witnessed a pure cinematic passion writ human.

stalking_moonOnto THE STALKING MOON, a high pedigree studio western, directed by TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD’s Richard Mulligan. The premise is simple: a woman (Eve Marie Saint) kidnapped by an Indian warrior is rescued years later by her husband (Gregory Peck). Sadly, the warrior wants his woman back. Like a silent wraith, the barely seen warrior stalks his prey through the mountains. Aided by his trusty Native sidekick, played by a stoic and stealthy Robert Forster (!), Peck eventually battles this manifestation of his worst fears to an interesting somber conclusion.

This was a very interesting film, but I was trying to figure out what attracted such star power like Mulligan and Peck to such a simple tale. The film is almost reactionary in its depiction of the vengeful injun warrior, tho he’s certainly not mocked. There’s not enough psychological insight to make the pursuit a metaphor for much else. It does play like a genteel horror film, and the antagonist is not unlike HALLOWEEN’s Michael Myers. You get the sense that this warrior can never be killed…

All in all, a fun night of little-seen western wonders. Time to mosey on home and prepare for Thursday’s much-anticipated 70’s COPS FILMS double feature. I mean…FREEBIE AND THE BEAN!

8 Responses to “Retro-View: QT III Fest – Westerns”

  1. Yes, I have significant issues with both of these films. Navajo Joe is simply a fun diversion. I actually just recently (I believe two months ago?) saw The Stalking Moon for the first time, and found it fairly plodding but sturdy. Robert Forster is cool, though, and the final prolonged confrontation between Peck and the Indian warrior just about makes up for the glacial pacing. Nevertheless, two films that would make for an interesting double bill.

  2. I need to check out the new NAVAJO JOE DVD. THE STALKING MOON is a late night staple, but yes, the pacing is glacial. I feel it’s reaching for a profundity I’m missing. But a cool double bill.

  3. By the way, thinking about what Quentin Tarantino could do with Gregory Peck in an alternate universe makes me excited. Just imagine the possibilities there.

  4. I’m a fan of THE STALKING MOON, and the western genre in general. For the longest time it seems, the film wasn’t available on disc (I had a copy on VHS). I appreciated the slow pace and how it offered up the dread to viewers.

    “It does play like a genteel horror film, and the antagonist is not unlike HALLOWEEN’s Michael Myers. You get the sense that this warrior can never be killed…”

    That’s exactly why I love this little oater (plus, it showcases the versatility of the genre). Mulligan took a story, and like TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, racism is a part of the tale, and built it into something almost Hitchcockian. What can I say, it’s a favorite. Thanks, christian, for highlighting it.

    • christian Says:

      Thanks. It’s finally available on DVD and Instant Watch Netflix. I’ll check it out again as I don’t think the print Quentin showed was in anamorphic.

      It’s a strange film.

  5. […] end up the romantic couple while Reynolds steals about every scene as Yaqui Joe, renegade Indian (Navajo’s brother?). It’s clear that Reynolds is itching for stardom and there’s a lot of his 70′s […]

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  7. […] After the screening, winding the BMW down the 35 as “Chilly Winds” blow from the speakers (from the Osmond’s Greatest Hits CD at Tower Records on Guadalupe (RIP), I again reflect how lucky I am to be riding under Texas stars at this time in my life. Tonight, I’m jes’ a good ol’ boy myself…Yee-haw! Tomorrow, I’ll be saddling up for Westerns! […]

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